May 19

Make Your Own Luck



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Mick Jagger credits luck for the longevity of his successful career with the Rolling Stones.

That’s right. Last night on CNN’s Larry King Live, arguably the biggest rock star ever credited luck for a career in which his band has sold over 200 million albums and from 1989-2002 earned an estimated $1.5 billion! Mick Jagger told Larry King that luck and timing were his band’s key reasons for career success! I was surprised to hear such a humble answer…but it’s of course true. Luck and timing are key for the career success of most people! Other than being in the right place at the right time, Mick said that hard work is the other key to success. And that brings me back to the title of this post: you make your own luck. Without the hard work, being in the right place at the right time wouldn’t matter because you’d have nothing to show for it. [Continues below the video]

Being in the right place at the right time led to my job working on a Rolling Stones concert tour.

I wrote about this in a post called 15 Career Development Topics That Will Follow You Through Life. The Stones job was my first paying job after graduating from school and by far the most exciting job I’ve ever had. I was lucky to get that job and I feel lucky today to have those memories. But I made my own luck! After graduation, I packed up my car in Chicago and said, “I’m joining the music business.” I drove to San Francisco to manage a band I loved and to find some kind of job with my hero Bill Graham’s company. Bill had been dead for a few years but I was determined to work in the house that Bill built. Kind of like a move out of Seinfeld, I showed up and said, “I’m available”. All they could offer me was a 3 month unpaid internship, but I jumped at the chance. When a fun woman known as the Ticket Queen was running around the office asking people to give up their Saturday to participate as a group in the AIDS Walk, I signed up thinking it would be a good opportunity to get to know her and some other characters from the office. I was right! Not only have we been friends to this day, but on the last day of my internship, the Ticket Queen came to my department and asked if I was available to go to Chicago and start working the next week on a Rolling Stones tour. Had I not taken the initiative to drive across the country, had I not been willing to serve as an unpaid intern, had I not participated in the AIDS Walk, I would not have been in the right place at the right time….and my luck would not have brought me my most exciting professional experience.

How To Make Your Own Luck

By knowing what you want and putting yourself out there, you are at least creating the opportunity for luck to strike. This week I interviewed an old friend who is a successful freelance writer, children’s book writer and author of travel memoirs. In that interview, he explains that a huge part of his career success is thanks to luck and timing. But if he hadn’t pursued writing and put himself out there, that luck and timing would have been irrelevant. Cameron Stone, the professional cellist and session musician who has played with everyone from Green Day to Dr. Dre and Whitney Houston, told us here that he never forgets how lucky he is. But again, he made his own luck – if he hadn’t committed to being a musician, if he hadn’t put himself out there and auditioned to play with Depeche Mode, that luck would have meant nothing. My new friend, Gen Y blogger and relationship marketing specialist Ryan Stephens, recently sent his resume to a company that really interested him. He saw an ad for a VP-level opening, so he knew they were hiring. He knew he wasn’t qualified for that opportunity but he sent his resume anyway because he wanted to at least meet with the company. You know what? They called him! Lucky? Yes. But had he not wanted something and gone for it, that luck would not have come to him.

Luck can make or break your career. There’s no guarantee it will ever find you – but it’s guaranteed to not find if you don’t at least go for what you want. You can always be the type of person who sits around thinking how lucky everyone else is when things are going their way…or you could really go for what you want and make your own luck. Which are you going to choose?

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15 Career Development Topics That Will Follow You Through Life
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  1. You always here the phrase, “The harder you work, the luckier you get,” but despite the frequency in which we hear it, it certainly rings true. I've witnessed it everywhere from the guys who spend hours in the batting cage getting bloop singles to fall to watching young professionals who spend free-time blogging instead of drinking (or maybe they do both at the same time) getting a leg up on their peers because they're increasing their brand, visibility et al.

    Good stuff Marc. I'm eagerly anticipating the continued growth and content of this site. Oh, and I'm totally stealing your notion of thinking of your career like a book and writing a post about that. That is, if you don't mind! :p

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